Americans do the most shopping during the last two months on the calendar, fulfilling Christmas gift lists, taking advantage of online deals, and snagging up holiday favorites at local stores. But the spendiest season of the year also offers a broadening array of moral dilemmas regarding our consumerism and a yearning to make something better of it.

Beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday—lest the holiday gift of charity be overlooked—the shopping season now brings sustainable gift guides, fair trade festivals, promotions from charity-minded startups, and shop local movements like Small Business Saturdays. The ethical options force us, as Christians and as consumers, to think more deeply about the items we buy year-round, the companies we support, and how we steward our money and resources.

Take any product we’ve purchased, and we could probably tell you how much it cost and the store it came from. A $55 duffel bag from REI. A $9,000 used Subaru Impreza. A $10 V-neck tee from Target. But beyond that, plenty of questions go unanswered: What materials were used? How much waste was created? Who made the components? Were the workers cared for at each step in the process? How far did these elements travel to get here?

“The modern market economy adds layers of complexity between production and consumption, which makes it hard to see the impact of each choice we make,” said Hunter Beaumont, pastor at Fellowship Denver and a board member with the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. “A lot of our Christian moral convictions were shaped in a simpler economy, and it can feel paralyzing to apply those convictions to our complex, modern economy.”

We want to become more conscious ...

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